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The Australian sharemarket is treading water at midday, with the ASX 200 completely flat after hitting an all-time high and record closing high on Wednesday. Losses from Rio Tinto (RIO), Commonwealth Bank (CBA), Goodman Group (GMG), healthcare and tech stocks are weighing most heavily.

Rio Tinto (RIO) is the least surprising drag, sliding by 6.8 per cent as it trades ex-dividend today for its largest distribution on record. Australia’s biggest iron ore producer will pay eligible shareholders a $7.60 per share dividend on September 23. This is more than three times its payment 12 months earlier thanks to significantly higher iron ore prices, which pushed earnings to record levels. The dividend is around 5.9 per cent of yesterday’s closing price.

Commonwealth Bank (CBA) is down 2.1 per cent after lifting for six consecutive days and handing down a near 20 per cent lift in cash earnings on Wednesday. CBA more than doubled its dividend to $2 per share and announced a $6bn off-market share buy-back.

Telstra (TLS) is up 3.5 per cent after releasing its full year earnings before market open. The country’s largest telco posted a 9.6 per cent slide in revenue to $21.5bn, a 14.2 per cent drop in EBITDA to $7.6bn and a 3.4 per cent rise in net profit to $1.9bn. The result was largely in-line with the company’s own guidance. TLS has declared an 8 cent per share dividend (same as last year) and also announced a $1.35bn on-market share buy-back. This is the telco’s way of sharing a portion of the proceeds from the sale of its stake in its mobile towers business.

QBE Insurance (QBE) is another standout, lifting by ~7 per cent after being the third insurer to post its results this week. QBE’s premiums rose by 20 per cent to US$10.2bn over the year, while also returning to profitability, recording a US$441m statutory NPAT (following a US$712m loss a year earlier). QBE declared an 11c dividend. Earlier this week, IAG posted a 36 per cent lift in insurance profits while Suncorp (SUN) handed down a 42 per cent jump in Australian insurance earnings.

AMP and Downer EDI (DOW) are also both lifting following the release of their earnings this morning, while AGL Energy (AGL) is down 4.6 per cent.

2.8bn shares have changed hands so far worth $3.7bn. 758 stocks are up, 555 are down and 428 are unchanged.

Published by CommSec